A Very Important Day
That title sounds just like it has come from a Pooh Bear story doesn’t it bet you opened this expecting bounding tiggers, gloomy donkeys and a pot of honey? Well sorry to tell you it was not that sort of important day!
The snow is well melted out on the pavements – although we still have a snow field in the back garden so after some catching up this morning I set out to get washed and dressed for outdoors. This was hampered by Pup deciding to wake up too soon – you will recall that I am not partial to sharing the bathroom with him and his teeth! Eventually he went in his crate while I got myself together.
We set off with all three of us but I very quickly turned back and returned Dog to his bed … with protest – not least from young Pup who didn’t want his buddy left behind! I have documented the whole walk here in Pup’s Diary but I will copy this extract here too because it was so significant:
Set off again with Pup and did some lead drills – turning every time he passed me and where there was space a walking squares drill turning across him. He was better on the lead on his own. He collected a plastic bottle and carried it until I took it from him and got rid. Shortly afterwards he pointed and flushed a blackbird from the hedge; the point was so slight that I almost missed it and by then he was rushing forwards. No harm done the best way for a dog to learn to hold his point is to learn that he cannot catch a flying bird so he is better to do his job and wait for someone else to slow the bird down so he can retrieve it.
We walked down the lane towards the WWTW with him on his training lead at full length. There are cars and lorries use that lane and he is not yet reliable to walk there off lead. He was also very interested in the ditch running alongside the road in full spate – but it was too steep a bank for him to even think about letting him attempt a water entry. We met a springer called Fergus; I let go of Pup’s lead so they both met unleashed. Initially Pup froze, then thought about turning tail and then went forward and said hello. After a wee bit of clapping we continued on.
At the end of the lane we turned into the larch spinney that I have photographed. It runs along the edge of the stubble field where they are developing. I was happy to let Pup off lead here and see what he did since the spinney is fenced to the south side. There is probably ONE most important lesson for a pup which you can only do in a very short window while they are still frightened to be without you.
We set off along the path with big larches to either side – big enough for me to hide behind. Pup sniffed around and I tried him with a puppy dummy and a tennis ball he wasn’t so keen to carry now so I put them away. I let him know I had treats with me. I stopped him when he wanted to go on the ice at the field edge (not sure how deep the water was underneath) but apart from that I left him to tootle along. I kept trying to lose him but he was too observant. Finally I got far enough ahead that I could hide behind a tree and peep at him.
He stopped looked around and realised he had lost me. He looked both directions along the path and then turned the wrong way and set off full pelt back the way we had come. I didn’t panic. I blew the recall whistle, I called his name. I stepped out onto the path and took a few steps in the direction he had gone then blew the whistle one more time – no other noise. A very relieved black puppy came hurtling back to me and wrapped himself round my ankles. He got some fuss and a treat or two. Lesson learned – he must watch me at all times and not expect me to look out for him. We continued our walk and he kept the contact with me scurrying here and there to sniff cones and bunny poo.
At the end of the path is now a dead end. although it was a risky one because the fence is partly down and submerged under the burn in spate. There were geese on the wee pond through the fence and I didn’t want Pup to think he could get to them through the burn. I should not have worried – his “keep with me” lesson was still effective and he didn’t see the geese because he was watching me.
I tried the tennis balls again on the return walk but he really wasn’t interested so they went back away. At the end of the Spinney it was another recall and Hup for his lead on and a ‘jackpot’ (this is where you reward with not one treat but several scattered on the floor for them to gather up.)
On the return up the road he was still keen to get in the ditch and was definitely interested when I let him test himself at the shallow section. Along the main road he collected an aluminium can which he carried all the way home and deposited in his new outdoor toy box (my recycling box). It was a great session with him.
He was dried off and popped into his crate so Dog could have a walk on his own. Pup was making a lot of fuss when I left and still squeaking 30 minutes later when we returned but he will have to learn.
But my exciting day did not end there … I took dog much the same route except I wasn’t letting him off in the spinney since he would be off across the stubble field which now has pits dug in it for the construction work.
On the way back he was desperate to walk right on the edge of the ditch – since he is bigger and can jump/scramble better I let him after we had sat up to wait for a large tanker to come up the road from the WWTW. At places the snow was making a bridge across the ditch and at one point he did start to plunge though and caught himself just in time … but that wasn’t the exciting bit.
As we got close to home I diverted down the path we use on a morning and half way down I let his lead go and off he went through the snow. There is a flock of gees in the neighbouring paddock where we normally talk to the ponies. The ponies are away down in the stable for winter but the geese come and go. Usually the geese are in the paddock so there are three boundaries between Dog and Geese – a drystane dyke, a fast flowing burn and a ranch fence which is covered in wire. Whilst Dog can jump obstacles no bother the one thing he has never done when free running is jumped a boundary fence.
However today, I realised after I had let Dog go, the geese were tucked in on the other side of the drystane dyke. I gulped and pushed the panic down. If he went after those there would either be damage to the geese and a cost to me or more likely serious injury to Dog and a cost to me. I blew one long whistle (STOP) and he stopped running and put his front paws on the dyke. My heart in my mouth I blew the recall whistle and got down low with arms wide and after the merest glance at the receding geese, without hesitation my stubborn old dog ran straight to me and stopped at my feet. I made such a fuss of him I was so very surprised and pleased with him. I couldn’t risk sending him again now he knew the geese were there but he will be out again in a few days and getting another chance to do his recall. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks or just maybe he knew it all along and was being deliberately non compliant?
I am so pleased with both dogs and the exercise has helped them be more settled and have a good rest this evening. What a double act they are – and when they work on their own they are even more awesome – that will change as Pup gets more obedient and Dog doesn’t want to be left out of my affections – as if he ever could be!
I was wearing my walking boots but the water coming off the fields was streams so my boots let water in eventually – they need to be stuffed with newspaper overnight and then I will need to reproof them again. My socks were wet so they have gone in the wash/dry cycle. My fleece hat was sodden so that is hung up in he utility room. My jeans had soggy bottoms despite me wearing ankle gaiters so they are currently draped across dog’s crate. It is hard work this walking the dog business!
On my travels I did see three buses … amazingly they are still powering up and down even in the horrid weather – such a change form two years ago when we had a similar winter and the old fleet couldn’t cope. Did I ever tell you I love my buses? and tomorrow I will be back on a couple of them to go sign on at the Job Centre.